By Chris Guld, Geeks on Tour
If you need Internet as you travel the U.S., you know that it’s important to have more than one Internet provider. Verizon works great in more places than any other provider, but there are still some places where AT&T might be better. We have one phone on unlimited Verizon and one hot spot on unlimited AT&T. All other devices use the Google Fi network.
What is Google Fi?
It used to be called Project Fi and it was only available on Google’s own Pixel phone. It piggybacks on three cellular networks: T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular. The Pixel phone is unique in its ability to automatically switch from one network to another, thus utilizing whichever of the three is the best.
Now it is available on other phones, including iPhone, but it will only be using T-Mobile’s network. Google Fi is a cellphone service provider, with a very straightforward pricing plan:
- $20/mo. voice and text (unlimited)
- $10/GB/mo. for data. You are only charged for what you use. So, if you use 1/2 GB, you only pay $5. If you use 6 GB, you pay $60. After 6 GB, there is no further charge for data up to 15 GB. If you use 10 GB, you pay $60, 12 GB = $60. After 15 GB, it’s still free if you’re willing to accept slow speeds. You can get high speed after 15 GB by picking up the $10/GB charge again.
My husband, Jim, has a Pixel phone, so he’s had Google Fi (Project Fi) since the beginning. Although the T-Mobile/Sprint/U.S. Cellular service is often very weak where we travel, the phone uses Wi-Fi seamlessly for phone calls as well as Internet. Since we have hot spots for both Verizon and AT&T, service has not been a problem.
Google Fi works in foreign countries
Where we have really appreciated the Google Fi service is when we travel in Europe and, coming up, in Australia/New Zealand. Google Fi just works. We get high speed data services for the same $10/GB as when we’re home.
Once you have an account with Google Fi, you can get data-only SIM cards at no charge. We got two for our two cellular capable iPads. This means that the iPads have their own data connection. We rarely use it because the iPads normally connect to Wi-Fi hot spots, but it’s nice to know the capability is there. They can get online without a Wi-Fi hot spot if T-Mobile is available. We rarely use even 1 GB on these cards, but that’s fine since we only pay for what we use.
Google Fi on iPhone
I’ve been using an iPhone for the last couple of years, but I recently got a new Samsung Note 9 on Verizon as my main phone. I wanted to keep the iPhone as a working phone, but to add it to the Verizon plan would be a minimum of $60/mo. Now that Google Fi works on the iPhone, we created a family plan on Google Fi and only pay $15/mo. to add the iPhone.
To summarize: We have two phones and two iPads on Google Fi. The base monthly fee is $35. Any data used is at $10/GB. And, we can use them in Australia/New Zealand!
We would not be able to travel in this country with only the Google Fi service, first, because the coverage is not great, and second, because we can easily use 100 GB of high speed data in a month. The Google Fi bill for that would be $860!
Chris Guld is President and Teacher-in-Chief at GeeksOnTour.com. She and her husband, Jim, produce a free weekly YouTube show called What Does This Button Do? They have been Fulltime RVers, popular seminar presenters at RV Rallies, and regular contributors to RVTravel.com, for many years.